No, we haven’t “broken English.”

Playing in the World Game

A recent article over at The Guardian asks the question, “Have we literally broken the English language?”

The gripe stems from the fact that the word “literally,” meaning (and only meaning, dammit, if you listen to the prescriptivists) “to the letter, in a literal way or sense,” has now been updated with an additional definition. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, it can now be “‘used for emphasis rather than being actually true.” Google’s added definition states that literally can be used “to acknowledge that something is not literally true but is used for emphasis or to express strong feeling”.

Randall Munroe riffed on this some time ago in his wonderful XKCD:

literally

Cushlamochree, people – get a grip.

One of the first things I learned when I started studying historical linguistics is that language is about as fixed as the clouds of Jupiter. A course in Romance Philology, taught…

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